The art of balancing work, life and travel as a digital nomad

There are two truths you need to know about me:

  1. I cannot cycle.
  2. I’m a night owl.

I’ve been in Eugene, Oregon for over two months now and given the timezone differences between Oregon and Interlaken (where my company’s headquarters are), I’ve had to get up a lot earlier than I’m used to. This is what I wish my days look like:

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I didn’t travel across the planet to get yelled at by strangers

I’ve been in America for almost a month now, spending time in Eugene where my sister lives, travelling around Oregon with my family, visiting New York and exploring New Orleans.

The west coast has been amazing, stunning scenery, fresh air, good food and really nice people. The east coast, not so much.

New York was a giant clusterfuck in my opinion. It was loud and smelly and actually trashy, something I never saw on Sex and the City. That said, Brooklyn does live up to its hype. While it’s painfully overpriced, it is a lovely place to be in.

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8 things I’m looking forward to in 2018

I’m currently on an idyllic island off Banda Aceh with a full moon over the sea, sitting in my room trying to get over a tummy bug. I think I shouldn’t have had that whipped cream that came with my fancy and way-too-sweet lychee drink last night.

Anyway, when’s a better time to write about things I’m looking forward to then when I’m in pain and require a good distraction?

Here’s a list of things I’m looking forward to in 2018:

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2017 was the year of death 

We’re two weeks into the new year and I couldn’t bring myself to write one of those heartfelt “I had an amazing 2017 and here’s to greater adventures” posts. As much as I tried to recall all the great moments in 2017, the constant news of death – death of my grand aunt, death of quite a few friend’s parents, death of people I’ve known since my days in SIBKL (that’s the church I grew up in) – it coloured 2017 in a way I’ve never experienced before.

There were times when I was fortunate enough to be physically present to share the painful burden of grief, and there were other times when all I could do was send strings of texts to friends at home telling them I was sorry.

I burst into tears by the River Aare as I sat down to read a friend’s eulogy. I cried by the stairway outside our office while on the phone with another friend as we both realised the permanence of death and the fragility of life. I watched friends hold back tears too many times last year to ignore it.
Death was evident in 2017.

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It’s been a little quiet around here… so here’s an update

This whole digital nomad thing requires a lot of energy. Like, a lot. I’m constantly juggling full-time work, navigating new destinations and figuring out new routines, planning my next trip and staying in touch with people I love… plus I write for Wait A Minute Now and really really really want to grow that. So, unfortunately, Next Train Out took a back seat.

Since I’m home and am on a TEN-DAY holiday, I thought I’d catch you up on what I’ve been up to, where I’ve been and all that.

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Travel tip #5: Send postcards, lots of them

I love sending postcards and letters and especially rude birthday cards. With less than RM10, I love that you can make someone feel special in such a simple way. There’s really nothing more special than snail mail from the other side of the planet, despite Facebook messages, Whatsapp, emails and the rest of the lot.

I often find that I struggle with words, figuring out what to say to the people I’m sending them to. It is sort of ironic since I write for work and run a travel blog (I’m using the word “run” rather loosely here, you fake it till you make it and all that jazz.) But I love sending them with big fat I love yous and I miss yous written all over them. I might not be eloquent in my letter writing, but I know that my recipients appreciate them anyway.

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10 moments in 2016 I never photographed, but I never want to forget

I don’t always remember to take pictures and let’s face it, I’m not that great at taking photos to begin with. I find myself acting really awkward in front of a camera and often get annoyed behind one when I don’t get a shot I imagined in my mind.

There are also moments where I am simply lost in awe and wonder that I forget to whip out my camera. So I thought I’d write some of them down before my crappy memory robs me of some truly precious moments.

1. Dancing with incredible women around the world

From Bali to KL to Porto to Barcelona, I’ve danced till the lights come on, till the last song ends. I’ve shared these dance floors with women from all the globe and they’ve been a delight. Smart and funny, incredibly interesting and more importantly, super silly on the dance floor – my kind of women. I hope to meet you ladies again someday. Continue reading

My one month anniversary for the second time round

My first one-month anniversary on my first ever long-term solo trip was spent in Stockholm. I decided to treat myself to dinner at a fancy place opposite my terrible hostel and it was delicious. I remember sitting at the bar with two women next to me, looking fabulous and stylish while I was in my sneaker-leather-jacket-hoodie combo. I remember taking my Kindle out at the bar, reading while having dinner with a glass of white wine.

What I remember the most about that night was feeling so proud of myself having survived a month on my own, but also feeling tired and spent and almost bored. Despite being in a new place almost twice a week, sometimes more, I was getting bored because I had fallen into a routine. I felt like an ungrateful brat but I was getting tired of walking tours, churches, walking tours, parks, walking tours, stunning lookout points, markets, rewind. Continue reading

HELLO WEB SUMMIT 2016

I spent the weekend washing my clothes, finishing up my food and packing for my two-week trip to Lisbon and Lyon!

As I put on my clothes that I had meticulously planned out, threw on my hoodie and coat like I used to a whole year ago and lifted up my backpack with a little jiggle so that it sits nicely on my shoulders, the rush of excitement kicked in and I know with crystal clear certainty that this is what I live for. Continue reading

The fear never goes away

I went to bed at 4.30am last night but found my exhausted body shaken to consciousness by my anxious mind. Go to bed, my tired body says, but I can’t. My mind is like a war zone, with thoughts flying left, right and centre, like bullets coming at me, making me scared for what the future might hold. 

At one point, I almost cry because I’m terrified.
I’ve been thinking about this for the past few days, this growing fear as the date for my departure slowly arrives. There’s a little excitement, but there’s also more fear than before. And sadness. Being back home for a year has definitely got me used to quite a few things, like the comfort of my bed, my mum’s incredible soups, the certainty of a jam going into KL or Bangsar, the immaculate taste of a cold brew at Thursdvys, the silliness of new found friends and warmth of someone’s hug. In other words, familiarity and security.

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